Mark Kiselica speaks on the challenges of adolescent fathers in faculty lecture

Emily Drinks March 27, 2014 0

Dr. Mark Kiselica, an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow, presented on the troubles teenage fathers face in “The Complicated Worlds of Adolescent Fathers: Implications for Clinical Practice, Public Policy and Research” on Tuesday, March 25.
Kiselica began the lecture by discussing his father’s childhood as well as his own.  “I want you to understand my biases and how I developed those,” Kiselica said.  He added that, as a psychologist, it is vital to be aware of biases. Kiselica explained that his father was raised in poverty by a neglectful father after his mother had died.
His father, a student with a learning disability, also dropped out of school at a young age to join the workforce. “That would be a decision he would pay for the rest of his life,” Kiselica said. His father worked extremely hard for the rest of his life. Kiselica and his four siblings were also born into poverty.
Kiselica explained that his father was still the best father he could have asked for, and that his parents dreamed to give their children a better life than they ever had.  Kiselica explained that his father rarely said a word but was always a firm and supportive father to his children. His father had the routine of going into their bedrooms every night, kissing them on the forehead and saying “sweet dreams.”
From this, Kiselica developed a favorable attitude toward men. “My transference to me is positive. I feel instant trust and affection when I see men,” Kiselica said. This served as both a positive and a negative.  Kiselica has had many males able to open up to him because they sense his immediate positive attitude toward them; however, Kiselica said this often leads to him having blinders when it comes to seeing flaws.  He decided to step back from his feelings and ask what the data says concerning teenage fatherhood. “I was shocked to learn how little help was available for young fathers. In fact, there was hostility toward these young men,” Kiselica said.
The research began with the 1980s, during which  teenage pregnancy rates and out-of-wedlock birth rates skyrocketed. Kiselica said that the United States has the second highest teen reproduction rate of any developed country. He looked at the services available to teenage parents during the 1980s as well. “[The services] were much more likely to be offered to young mothers than to young fathers,” Kiselica said.  He confirmed his research findings with work produced by sociologists and confirmed that teenage fathers receive less help than teenage mothers and are often given a negative label.
Kiselica then researched what has been said about teenage fathers. “In a nutshell, guys deliberately set out to knock up a teenage girl and then move on to their next sexual conquest,” he said, identifying the stereotype of teenage fathers.  However, after conducting more research on the topic, Kiselica said, “I found that it is a mixed bag.”
About 25 to 33 percent of young fathers fit the stereotype of only being interested in having sex with a girl; one in five have a history of juvenile delinquency.  “That’s the minority of teenage fathers,” Kiselica stated. The other three-quarters of teenage fathers make an earnest effort. “They make an attempt to be very involved in the child’s life for at least the first year, and then something very tragic happens,” he said.
One third of teenage fathers are still actively involved in raising their children by the time the children are five to six years of age.  Kiselica said this is largely due to stresses that may cause the relationship to end or will prevent the father from being involved in the child’s life. “There is a colossal lack of guidance for these guys as teenage fathers,” Kiselica said.  Many of the men and boys had complicated lives before they had fatherhood, and that further complicates their lives.
The solution Kiselica gave was to make more services available to them in order to lessen the complications they face. He said that they need legal aid for child visitation rights and confidentiality in cases where the father may be under scrutiny for the age differences or may even be an illegal immigrant. He also thinks that more innovative child support will help.  Kiselica added that those who help teenage fathers should “go to the places where guys normally form friendships,” instead of sitting behind a desk taking notes while they talk to the fathers.

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